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Did Mike Illitch step in it?


Maybe I am making too big a deal about this, as many today have already accused. Maybe I am not enjoying our Detroit Tigers being in first place by two games on July 27 (before the White Sox game started), and maybe I am being excessively cynical in my coverage of our favorite baseball team.

I am willing to accept all of that.

However, I don’t know if what Mike Illitch said to fine folks from WDFN Detroit 1130 AM is really the thing that a baseball owner should be saying the week of the trade deadline. He would not commit to General Manger Dave Dombrowski or Manger Jim Leyland getting new deals past this season and went on to say that he would be very disappointed if the Tigers did not make the playoffs and/or win the American League Central.

I think we all would be disapointed, but the message that sends to the rest of the baseball world is that anything the Tigers are asking for can be held up for additional cost because these are now two guys pretty desperate to keep their own jobs. I really believe that these comments by Mr. Illitch will wind up costing the Tigers more prospects, draft picks, or cash to get the things they need for a stretch run in 2011. Of course, maybe I am just channeling my inner Mike Valenti.

Illitch is a great hockey owner, and is rightfully in the hockey hall of fame. As a baseball owner, I am far more critical. He has now owned this team for damn near 20 years and all he has to show for that is one trip to the playoffs. Not even a single divisional crown. That is not good enough in my book, and even tough it took him a long time to rebuild the Red Wings into a perennial contender; we have not seen that kind of progress with the baseball venture. Sure, they are light years ahead of he 1990's tigers, but is that the ultimate goal?

I will never question Mr. Illitch's tendency to take on payroll to improve his clubs, but I think we have seen a pattern of misplaced loyalty. He let Randy Smith stay here for far too long, and I think that he is letting Dombrowski stay too long. This is a results business, and I am sad to say the current Tigers management has simply not delivered on that front.

Too may trades have come back to haunt this team, to much dead money on overblown contracts spent on misplaced loyalty to aging players, and the farm system is in shambles once again. The long term future of this team right now is not very rosy, and yet they find themselves in a playoff race. Better than that, they find themselves leading a playoff race.

Yes, we should be enjoying this and as much as we can. However, I have my eye on the future as well, and that makes me look at this team in a much different light. If they are in win now mode (as I truly believe they are) then it is time to pull out all of the stops and win. Then get a new GM and manager and launch an extensive rebuilding project after the World Series trophy comes back to Motown.

I hope that in the end all of this will work out and we Tigers fans will celebrate later this fall with a World Title. If not things could start to look a heck of a lot worse.

Tigers fans you can listen to my exclusive Detroit pod cast on The Detroit Sports Authority will air tomorrow at 1am, 9am, and 7pm, it will air again on Sunday at 3am, 11am, and 7pm. Listen and enjoy.

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